Why Egypt is Silent about Sudan Turmoil?



The turmoil in Sudan is getting uglier by day. Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan is proceeding with fostering his grip over power, despite the nose of the international community and the angry Sudanese citizens. On Friday, Al-Burhan reappointed himself as the leader of the interim Sovereign Council of Sudan, after illegally overthrowing the civilian government, on October 25th. Up to this moment, at least nineteen people have been killed by security forces while rallying in the massive protests that erupted all over Khartoum to reject what they described as “a military coup.” In addition, more than a hundred of prominent political activists and civilian government officials got detained.


This is not the first coup attempt by Al-Burhan against the civilian officials who co-led the Sovereign Council with him, since the ouster of Omar Al-Bashir in 2019. Those who follow the complex political scene in Sudan have already guessed that Al-Burhan would not allow a civilian government to rule the country, independent from the military institution. Earlier, Al-Burhan had to accept sharing power with civilians as a temporary compromise to avoid being overthrown or discredited by the pro-democracy revolutionists. As soon as the storm got to calm, he clasped his shaking seat and worked to get rid of the civilian government to exclusively seize power to himself.


The international community, led by the United States; as well as regional powers on opposite ends of the spectrum extending from Turkey and Qatar to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have openly condemned the military takeover in Sudan. However, Egypt is silently watching from a distance, despite being Sudan’s closest neighbor and ally. Egypt is, allegedly, the only country in the world that can actively influence the political proceedings in Sudan; for many reasons that have to do with the geopolitical, geo-economic, diplomatic, and security interdependency between the two culturally and geographically bonded nations. But Egypt does not want to.


When the United States and Egypt senior diplomats met in Washington, last week, to resume the US-Egypt Strategic Dialogue, they did not prioritize discussing Israel-Palestinian conflict or countering terrorism. However, the top priority topic on the agenda was the turmoil in Sudan. Some observers argue that the recent coup in Sudan is the main reason why the United States decided to resume the strategic talks with Egypt, after years-long pause. Apparently, the United States wanted to depend on Egypt in controlling the turmoil and put Sudan back on the track for democratization. Yet, the shamefully brief and vague mention of Sudan in the concluding joint statement of the US-Egypt Strategic Dialogue show that Egypt refused to act upon America’s wish.


Although the United States has not officially described Al-Burhan’s takeover as a military coup, it has been relentlessly working to reverse the events and re-install the civilian government. On the next day of the coup, the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, announced that the Biden Administration will suspend the aid due to Sudan (700 million dollars), until Al-Burhan reverses his action.


On November 3rd, the United States successfully lobbied Al-Burhan’s top regional supporters – Saudi Arabia and UAE – to condemn his move, in a joint statement that is signed by the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, and UAE who described themselves as “the quad for Sudan.” Following Omar Al-Bashir’s fall in 2019, Saudi Arabia and UAE promised three billion dollars to support the transitional leadership of Al-Burhan. Five hundred million of that amount have already been deposited to the Sudanese Central Bank, at that time.


On the flip side, Egypt seems to be unwilling to change the course of events in Sudan. That is not because Egypt co-plotted the coup with Al-Burhan as some commentators naively claim. Any turmoil in Sudan is a serious threat to Egypt’s national security. However, on the long-term, Al-Burhan is more likely to serve Egypt’s national security interests better than any current or future civilian leadership, in terms with regional conflicts and threats. Al-Burhan and El-Sisi agendas are perfectly aligned on the Nile River conflict with Ethiopia, the counter-terrorism efforts in eastern Africa, and the control of rising threat of African militias in Libya and Chad. Therefore, when the time is right, Egypt will appropriately intervene.


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